Florida GOP legislators line up behind DeSantis ahead of likely 2024 bid

Republicans in the Florida state legislature are lining up behind Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) likely presidential bid.

Ninety-nine of the state’s 113 Republican state lawmakers endorsed the governor’s White House aspirations on Wednesday, giving him a jolt of momentum as he nears a formal campaign announcement. 

The new endorsement list comes just a day after the legislature’s top two Republicans — Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul Renner — threw their support behind DeSantis for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nod. 

So far, only one member of the Florida legislature, state Sen. Joe Gruters, has endorsed former President Donald Trump, DeSantis’s main rival for the Republican’s presidential nomination. Trump previously described his support in Florida as “almost universal.”

The slate of endorsements comes less than two weeks after the Florida legislature wrapped up its annual legislative session, a 60-day stretch that saw state lawmakers pass a long list of DeSantis’s biggest policy priorities.

“Ron DeSantis’s support among Republicans in the Florida legislature is almost universal because these lawmakers have partnered with the governor to pass the most robust conservative agenda in the history of the state, putting Florida at the top of the rankings on every key metric,” a top official with DeSantis’s political operation said.

Trump has still racked up a long list of endorsements from Florida Republicans. More than half of the state’s 20-member Republican House delegation has thrown their support behind his 2024 comeback bid. So far, only one, Rep. Laurel Lee (R-Fla.), has endorsed DeSantis.

Trump’s campaign on Wednesday accused DeSantis and his team of putting undue pressure on state lawmakers to endorse the governor by threatening to veto legislation unless they get behind him. 

“There are some brave legislators who have stood up to DeSantis’ Swamp-like behavior and resisted his intimidation tactics in order to do what is right for Florida and the country,” Steven Cheung, a spokesperson for Trump’s campaign, said in a statement. 

“Those who he can’t control — including almost the entirety of the Florida federal congressional delegation — have endorsed President Trump because he’s the only candidate who can beat Joe Biden and take back the White House.”

DeSantis hasn’t formally launched a presidential bid yet, but is widely expected to do so in the coming weeks. He spent Saturday traveling through Iowa, the crucial first-in-the-nation caucus state for Republicans, and his political shop moved into a new office on Monday.

His team has also begun inviting donors and top supporters to Miami for an event later this month, signaling a presidential campaign announcement is likely.

DeSantis and Trump have engaged in a bitter, and at times chaotic, battle for endorsements in recent days. 

On Tuesday, Never Back Down, the main super PAC backing DeSantis for the 2024 Republican presidential nod, rolled out a list of endorsements from more than 50 New Hampshire state lawmakers, including four who had previously announced their support for Trump’s 2024 campaign. 

One of those legislators, state Rep. Juliet Harvey-Bolia, later told NBC News she was “endorsing both” Trump and DeSantis, while another state lawmaker, Rep. Lisa Smart said she was still supporting Trump, despite signing an endorsement form pledging to back DeSantis.

DeSantis also scored endorsements from 37 state legislators in Iowa ahead of his trip to the state on Saturday. Trump, meanwhile, rolled out his own slate of 150 Iowa endorsements, though at least three of those people told Axios that they hadn’t been consulted by Trump’s team about their support and remained undecided.

The legislators’ endorsements also come after DeSantis suffered two high-profile defeats in Tuesday’s elections. His endorsed candidate in the Kentucky GOP gubernatorial primary, Kelly Craft, lost to Trump’s pick, state Attorney General Daniel Cameron; meanwhile, in Florida, a DeSantis-backed Republican lost to Democrat Donna Deegan in the Jacksonville mayoral race.

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